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Featured Artist: Tim Williams

Tim Gilbert

Editor's note: technical details and contact info are listed at the end of the interview. 

You mentioned in your bio that you had been a professional photographer, how long did you “exchange money for photographs?”
Only for about four years.  I quickly found that I didn’t like the pressure of weddings and dealing with demanding clients.  It began to sour my love of photography.  Now, I do it for myself or I give my work away to kids that can’t afford a photographer for Senior Photos, etc.

 What do you do now in exchange for money?
For the last 30 years, I’ve been in emergency medicine.  I worked for a long time out of an E.R. as an EMT.  About 19 years ago, I switched to the fire service.  Now, I’m a Battalion Chief and also the safety coordinator for a large HVAC company in NE Wyoming.  When not otherwise occupied, I sit on the board of and teach photography and pottery at the Advocacy for the Visual Arts.

 How do you “find” your photos?
I’d love to say that I am one of those artists to whom the world “speaks”, but in reality, I don’t have that kind of eye.  I go looking for all my shots and work to create them.  That’s why I like street photography and studio portraits.  One exposes you to a ton of interesting opportunities.  The other, you can take your time and manipulate the subject.

 Why do you shoot large format?
Because it’s beautiful!  Where else are you going to get that much detail?  Large format is forgiving in that I can crop and play with ratios.  It’s also something that makes me slow down.  It’s very equipment oriented and that appeals to the gadget guy in me. 

What is the most challenging aspect of shooting film?

Hmmm, at a couple of dollars per frame, it will break you of “spray and pray” pretty quick.  Not being able to “chimp” the back of your DSLR keeps you on your toes.  No histogram, no crazy ISO changes from shot to shot.  You have to plan for your day and you have to plan for your shot…in ADDITION to just composing it.  Add manual or no metering, manual focus…it makes you think!  That’s how I started in 1977 and I love the feeling of risk and anticipation involved in going out with just film. 

 What other formats do you shoot? Do you have a favorite?

Even though I still do about half of my photography with a DSLR, I shoot mostly 120 film.  I love 6x7, but even my beloved 645’s turn out spectacular shots!

Have you had any, shall we say challenges, explaining your photographic endeavors to friends and family?

The usual.  They don’t understand why they can’t see the shot on the camera, or why I have to take extra time setting things up. 

I also tend to scare the heck out of passengers in the car when I suddenly slam on the breaks and swerve to the side of the road to catch something interesting that I spy along the road. 

Then there’s the expense, the extra equipment to develop and print…  Like I say, I subscribe to the “Schrodinger’s Kit” theory.  If you can sneak a new addition to your camera collection into the house without your wife catching it, it is both a new acquisition and an old one at the same time.”  What started out earning me chuckles when I rip open a package from Japan containing a treasure, now gets me the raised eyebrow when I try to explain that even though I have the Mamiya C200 and C300, the C33 is a completely different camera!  One that I must have to complete that series!

 Obligatory technical questions:
Favorite camera?   My Cambo Master PC studio camera!
Favorite lens?        My Fujinon 240 A and anything made by Mamiya.
Favorite film?          Ilford Delta

If you could have dinner with any artist in history, who would it be?

Any ARTIST?  Hands down, Leonardo da Vinci.  Mad genius.  Photographer?  As cliché as is sounds, Ansel Adams.  As a child, I would stare at wonder at his photos of Half dome and Yosemite Valley, almost convincing myself that I could see color in them.  I learned to “burn” and “dodge” from his techniques and still use the Zone System.

How do you know if a photograph is really good?
When it catches your eye and makes you stop.  When you don’t even think about critiquing it for its use of the golden spiral or it’s subject balance.  Sometimes an image just sings and I for one, don’t want to deconstruct it to find out why.

Is there any photo that you would wish you could retake (or not take in the first place)?
Nope.  Every shot is either a keeper or a lesson in what not to do.

What new accessory/innovation does the large format film world need?
Oh, where to start?  New models of portable 4x5 point and shoot cameras.  Holders to help bring back dry plate photography.  Those would be wonders in my book.

If you could take an all-expenses paid two week photo-safari to anywhere, where would you go?
Angkor Wat!  Another childhood dream.  To have the time to spend a few weeks walking through the ruins and absorbing the atmosphere of such an ancient place would lead to some truly once in a lifetime shots.

Does your interest in photography impact/affect other aspects of your life?
I do have to struggle with wanting to grab my camera on fire scenes when I’m on a call.  And the street photographer in my wants to capture the raw human emotion that I get to see, but that would be wildly inappropriate.  Holidays and trips usually have photography taken into consideration and my hiking buddies frequently wind up just walking away and leaving me searching for the perfect angle of something that caught my eye.

If you were limited to shooting only one film (brand, ISO ect) for the rest of your life, what film would it be?
lford Delta 100.  It comes in every format that I shoot, is forgiving in the darkroom and gives me beautiful tones.

What's your favorite recipe for processing film?
I’m a traditionalist.  I stick with Ilford Ilfosol-3 standard or Kodak HC-110 1+31.  I need to get out more.

Do you print in a traditional darkroom?
I don’t any longer.  I used to spend hours locked away in red light, burning and dodging and hand correcting prints.  Now, I pop my negatives onto the plate of my Epson V800 and hit, “scan”.  Or use my light table and my Nikon DSLR to give me a quick digital neg.  Light Room is a gift from God…and Adobe.

Is there a deeper goal to your portraits or do you just like photographing people?
It depends.  I find myself “Jonesing” for something to shoot, develop and post process fairly regularly, so the studio is an easy outlet.   However, I do try to capture the “inner” model, rather than the Vouge Cover.  I get most of my “keepers” in between poses and while on breaks.  I want the model to see a shot and go from surprised at it not being what they think it will be, to Oh my God, I love it! 

“Haley 2” Cambo Master PC View Camera, Ilford Delta 100, Ilfosol developer.


Which of your photos is your favorite?
I was in Downtown Denver one fall day, taking street portraits when I came across a homeless man wrapped in a blanket sitting on the curb by an upscale restaurant.  The one single shot that I managed to get off before he noticed me is my all-time favorite.  To this day, I can look at it and recapture the feeling of hopelessness and despair that I saw in his face.  (no, I didn’t approach him like I do most homeless that I photograph. This guy was BIG and scary.  The other homeless folks on the street gave him a wide berth and so did I).

Our marketing department wants to know how you discovered the SP-445?
Actually I bought one of the designers old Crowns on eBay and we struck up a conversation.  I wound up calling him and he told me all about the SP-445, which was not yet in production.  When it came out, I bought one of the first ones and I have been an avid fan and staunch supporter of it since!  BEST thing to happen to large format in a  very long time!

 For more info:

 Technical details (in order shown.)

  • “Amanda” – Cambo Master PC View Camera, Ilford Delta 100, Ilfosol developer.
  • “Strength” Cambo Master PC View Camera, Ilford Delta 100, Ilfosol developer.
  • “Badlands” Cambo Master PC View Camera, Ilford Delta 100, Ilfosol developer.
  • “After the Fire” - Crown Graphic, Ilford Delta 100, Ilfosol developer.
  • “Tonka Toy” - Crown Graphic, Ilford Delta 100, Ilfosol developer.
  • “Haley 2” Cambo Master PC View Camera, Ilford Delta 100, Ilfosol developer.


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